Tackling the cold and flu this holiday season

Posted at 5:50 PM, Dec 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-17 17:50:27-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Like it or not, cold and flu season is here. It's a concern for many, especially around the holidays.

But there is some good news: Tthere were just 12 reported cases of influenza in Kent County last week, according to the Kent County Health Department. During the same week last year, there were 74 cases.

Dr. Randall Duthler of Metro Health says he has yet to see a patient for influenza this year.

"We’ve had some different weather this year so that always changes things," Duthler said.  "I'm very surprised I haven't seen influenza yet."

However, experts say we've got a long way to go until flu season is done.
"I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet,' warned Duthler. "I think it will be coming around eventually."

Influenza Activity

The data pictured is from the Kent County Health Department. Comparing the last 4 flu seasons to the 2015-2016 year thus far.

Although the numbers for the influenza may be down, Dr. Duthler says he is seeing an increase in stomach flu and strep throat. As for the common cold, he says those numbers are running about average but are harder to track, because county health departments typically don't track data on colds.

Dr. Duthler says if you don't want a cold or the flu, make sure to wash your hands.

"Hand washing is the number one thing, and as much as I love hand sanitizer, that doesn’t kill the stomach flu," he said, adding that he believes the flu shot is extremely important.

"There’s a misconception of something called herd immunities, where everyone thinks everyone else gets the shot, they don’t have to get it."

Dr. Duthler and Metro Health understand that at times it's hard to get to the doctor during the holidays, so they're offering same day appointments, adding that if you want to stay healthy this holiday season, you've got to take care of yourself.

"I think anytime the immune system is depressed if you’re not sleeping, eating well, not taking your vitamins those types of things those can weaken your immune system," Duthler said.

We're told flu season typically peaks between January and March, but the CDC warns that the flu is unpredictable and timing varies every year, that's why they recommend getting vaccinated now, if you haven't yet.